Opposition Groups, 1919-44

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Spartacist Revolt, 1919

The Spartacists

* The Spartacist League was the name of the German Communist Party.

* Inspired by the 1917 Russian Revolution, it wanted a Communist German government.

* It was led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Leibknecht.

The Spartacist Revolt

The Spartacists took over the government's newspaper and telegraph bureau and tried to organise a general strike in Berlin. The Weimar Government sent Freikorps to put down the revolt. There was street fighting for several days before the revolt ended and Spartacist leaders were shot.

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The Kapp Putsch, 1920

The Freikorps

* Groups of ex-soldiers, mainly right-wing nationalists, used by the Weimar government to squash Spartacist Revolt.

* Disbanded January 1920 when Germany reduced the army, but tried to take power in the Kapp Putsch.

The Kapp Putsch

A group of Freikorps, led by Dr Wolfgang Kapp, occupied Berlin. The Weimar government asked the army to suppress the putsch and asked trade unions to organise a general strike. The army refused but trade unions agreed. The general strike caused such chaos that Kapp could not rule Germany and was forced to flee.

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The Nazi Party, 1920-22

The Nazi Party was a right-wing opposision group with growing membership. It had its own newspapers and held public meetings to spread its ideas. One member, Adolf Hitler, showed great talent for public speaking.

The SA (Stormtroopers), formed in 1921, were the violent arm of the party, breaking up communist meetings and beating people.

Nazi Party Policies, 1920-22

> Nationalism

> Socialism

> Anti-communism

> Anti-semitism

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Munich Putsch, 1923

What Happened?

The SA burst into a Munich beer hall where Gustav von Kahr, head of the Bavarian government, was addressing a meeting. Hitler announced they were taking over the government and tried to gain support. The next day Hitler, Ludendorff and about 3000 supporters marched through Munich looking for support. A gun battle with police followed and 16 Nazi supporters were killed. The Putsch had failed; Ludendorff and Hitler were arrested.

The Consequences

The Nazi Party was banned and its leaders imprisoned. However, Hitler's trial created public sympathy, and he received the minimum five year sentence. He served just nine months, using this time to write Mein Kampf. Failure forced him to re-think tactics - he now knew an armed uprising wouldn't bring him power.


* The Nazis were not organised                                               * The police were better prepared

* Too few people in Munich supported the Nazis                     * The Bavarian Government didn't join the Nazis

* Neither the army nor the police supported the Nazis            * Hitler was in prison and the Nazi Party was banned.

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Church Opposition

Although Hitler tried to suppress opposition from the Churches, there were still Catholic priests and Protestant ministers and pastors who preached against Nazi Policies. Thousands were arrested and sent to concentration camps where many died.

* In 1941, the Action T4 euthanasia programme ended when the Catholic Cardinal Galen spoke out against it.

* Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke out, particularly against Nazi Jewish policies. He was arrested, sent to a concentration camp and executed.

* Many Protestant churches joined the Confessional Church in opposition to the Nazi-supporting Reich Church.

Pastor Martin Niemöller : Niemöller originally supported Hitler. He changed his views when the Reich Church was set up. In 1934, he set up the Confessional Church. He frequently spoke out against the Nazis. In July 1937, he was arrested and sent to prison for 7 months. He continued attacking Nazi policies when he was released. He was arrested again and spent 7 years in concentration camps until the end of the Second World War.

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The White Rose Group

This group was set up at Munich University by Hans and Sophie Scholl and Kurt Huber.

* The white rose was a symbol of justice; the group was non-violent.

* Hans had seen the murder of Jews and other non-Aryans on the Eastern front.

* The group let people know about the atrocities that were happening.

* It created and distributed leaflets opposing the Nazis and the war.

* All three leaders (plus other members) were eventually caught and executed.

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The Edelweiss Pirates

These were small groups who opposed the Hitler Youth. They eventually set up a national organisation.

* Boys wore check shirts and dark trousers and girls wore make-up and permed their hair.

* The edelweiss was their symbol.

* They read and listened to banned media, including jazz, and wrote anti-Nazi graffiti.

* They spread Allied propaganda leaflets.

* They gave shelter to army desserters.

* They frequently attacked members of the Hitler Youth and in 1944 they killed the head of the Cologne Gestapo.

* Some were caught and hanged.

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Army Opposition

Army members swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler. During the 1930s they showed few signs of opposition.

This changed in the 1940s because:

* The army suffered defeats on the Eastern Front

* Many soldiers saw, and didn't like, ** brutality.

Opposition from the army was Hitler's greatest fear because of their access to weapons and millions of highly trained men.

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Operation Valkyrie (the July Plot)

Appalled by his experiences on the Eastern Front, Count von Stauffenburg devised 'Opperation Valkyrie'. This was a plot to assassinate Hitler, using a bomb in a briefcase.

At a military conference in East Prussia on 20th July 1944, von Stauffberg tried to blow up Hitler. The bomb exploded, but Hitler was protected by a table. Von Stauffenberg, along with 5756 others (including 19 generals and 27 colonels), was executed for his role. This highlights the deep opposition to Hitler from within the army towards the end of the war.

* Operation Valkyrie was also known as the July Plot *

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